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Wetnose Burgess Animal Aid Awards 4th March 2011 London

The Wetnose Burgess Animal Aid Awards proved to be a parade of some of the UK’s beloved TV faces as well as a ceremony recognising the amazing work done by animal rescue centres and the working dogs that protect the people and ports of this country.

I confess to thinking that one or two of the celebrity award givers were dead, but they were apparently alive and remarkably well preserved.

Having acted as judge for these awards, it was extremely gratifying to see the smaller, independent rescue centres being called up to the stage looking genuinely excited yet slightly bewildered to be finally acknowledged.

The stage management was a little disorganised as celebrities wandered on stage looking lost and no idea if they were supposed to speak or not.  It made for some uncomfortable moments but it was interesting to see the pros, Brian May, Jenny Seagrove (Jo Mills, Judge John Deed) and John Altman (Nick Cotton, EastEnders) taking charge of their presentations and rallying the audience.

The best heart rending stories were read out by Shelia Reid (Madge Barron, Benidorm) and Peter Egan (Paul Ryman, Ever Decreasing Circles).  Peter’s presentation was a very emotional affair telling the tale of a dog called Blue who had been abandoned in a shed for 8 years and was subsequently found to have splinters in the flesh of his face – a truly terrible story of animal cruelty that upset everyone in the audience.  Sheila’s presentation was a softly spoken, carefully told tale of a dog called Penny who pregnant, had been left trapped in a snare to die.

As someone who trains animals in the world of working dogs to help to catch our criminals, find our missing children, stop drugs getting into the country and protect our Police, I was especially pleased at two of the awards given.  I got the chance to speak to the leader of the National UK Border Patrol Dogs, seen recently in “Border Patrol” on TV.  He was genuinely excited to win an award and rather star struck at the number of celebrities coming up to congratulate him.

The other award went to Cumbria Police and their Dog Section.  The two handlers and dogs collecting the award were directly involved in the apprehension of killer Derrick Bird, the taxi driver who went on a gun rampage last year. The dogs had been sent in to look for a man known to have already killed who was heavily armed.  I know first hand the anguish these guys feel when sending a dog in to possible death.   It really brought home the bravery of the dogs and Police Officers we sometimes take for granted.

The highlight of the afternoon was the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Brian May to Virginia McKenna, one time actress and head of the Born Free Foundation, started after starring in the film of the same name many years ago.  Virginia McKenna received the only standing ovation and was truly touched by it.

She got another huge round of applause when Brian May pointed out she is 80 next week.  Whether because she still has a mind like a steel trap and is beautiful and elegant or just because she is still here, I’m not quite sure.

My own personal excitement was saved for Brian May, as well known for his animal loving speeches as apparently playing guitar in some well known band…..  They say be careful what you wish for, but I can say that my anticipation of meeting Brian May was fully justified once I’d spoken to this articulate, genuine and truly nice rocker. He kindly posed for the camera with a puppy brought to the event by one of the winners, Lizzie’s Barn. Royston, a Cavalier puppy with hydrocephalus (water on the brain), is the throw away victim of a greedy breeder who has no morale standards of appreciation for the animals he breeds. The rescue centre is now on a deadline to raise £5000 for the brain surgery Royston so desperately needs.

His story, and the others heard throughout the day are sadly everyday issues for those of us working with animals.  Just as you think you’ve heard the greediest, cruellest, most neglectful story there is, along comes another one that knocks you for six.

Overall it was an eventful day, Church House, Deans Yard was a stunning venue with many well deserved winners and a great way of recognising the smaller rescue centres but I would like to see a more public acknowledgement of the role animals play in our world, protecting us, finding us when stupidly lost up mountains, tracing the morons who steal our cars and break into our homes.  Perhaps there is an opportunity to set up a Working Dogs Awards, what do you think?

Debbie Connolly
SafePets UK


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1 Comment »

  1. ellen stevens says:

    I am the owner of PENNY who got caught in the snare and she would have died in agony had these wonderful rescue people not saved her

    It was a truly wonderful day and I have only heard positive feedback.

    My husband is a Police Officer and works with the dog handlers, and they do get a lot of recognition.

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